It used to be that being self-employed or running a small business meant being caught in the frustrating limbo between working from a home office and renting an expensive office space that doesn’t see full-time use. With the advent of virtual offices, there’s finally a solution to this problem that offers the best of both worlds.
It may not be the right solution for every business, however, as some businesses need a dedicated space, and some are content with the home office. For those who need a home away from home office, though, the benefits of a virtual office can be numerous. This article takes a closer look at what virtual offices are, and whether using one will benefit your small business.
What Are Virtual Office Solutions?
Virtual offices are rentable, temporary offices and suites. It’s a service provided by some companies to entrepreneurs who need an office or meeting space occasionally, but not all the time.
The provider owns and operates a large space that’s divided into separate functional spaces for different businesses to use. These areas include private offices, semi-private colocated workspaces, and meeting/conference rooms. Depending on the provider, these can be rented for time periods as short as a quarter-hour, to as long as a month, according to the renter’s need. These spaces are furnished and equipped with internet, so there’s no setup cost for the renter. All they do is rent the space, and use it as they need.
That’s not all virtual offices are, though. Here are some amenities that frequently accompany the offices to help facilitate productivity:
- • A virtual assistant for each business
- • Front desk receptionists
- • Call forwarding to entrepreneur’s phone
- • Fully equipped fax machines and printers
- • Fully functional kitchenettes
- • A physical mailing address for each business, which can be used to receive mail or to apply for licenses and the like
- • And more, depending on location
What Are the Benefits?
There are a number of reasons that a small business might want to use a virtual office. It offers many of the same benefits of a normal office, while avoiding most of the drawbacks. The benefits include:
- • Avoiding the distractions of working from home (family, visits from friends, TV, pets, housework, etc.)
- • Reliable internet, often at faster speeds than what you have at home.
- • A live virtual receptionist, to help you stay organized and on top of tasks.
- • A real physical business address in a prestigious location, which can be used for business cards, mail correspondence, acquiring licenses, and meetings with clients and investors.
- • Professional receptionists and a waiting area.
- • The freedom to scale up or scale down as needed.
- • The ability to expand to new markets by using a local address and phone number.
- • An inexpensive alternative to leasing a full-time office.
You can probably see why so many startups and small businesses are jumping on the virtual office bandwagon, as it offers what an ordinary office would, but at a fraction of the cost.
What Are the Drawbacks?
- • There’s a commute when you use the office space (though usually much less than for a normal office).
- • It’s more expensive than working from home (but only by a little).
- • You can’t necessarily wear PJ’s and slippers to work.
- • You sometimes have to compete for office space (though there’s almost always plenty to go around).
- • You usually have to bring your own device (if you don’t have one that’s dedicated to work, keep in mind that getting one for that purpose is a tax write-off).
- • You won’t have your cat to keep you company (but they’re also not going to be sitting on your keyboard, so maybe you break even).
- • You can’t use the office space for industrial activities (like auto repair or manufacturing for obvious reasons)
All in all, it’s still a solid option for those whose business requires them to get out of the house every now again, or to meet with people in a professional location.